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Banning of Social Media News Platforms in Haryana: How much Justified?

JAG MOHAN THAKEN –CHANDIGARH “If you notice some incidents of corruption in government offices, instead of bringing these corrupt employees to book, you ban all these offices to function.” “If incidents of purse snatching—pickpocketing increase in public transport, then instead of controlling the crime or Catching Pocket Pickers or Purse Snatcher – stop the entire public transport to run.” These are the assumptions on which some Deputy Commissioners in Haryana seem to be working to curb the fake news on social media platforms. As per reports, on getting information of broadcasting / communicating fake news during COVID crisis by some social media news platforms, instead of taking legal action against the defaulting platforms only, Deputy Commissioners of six districts in Haryana have banned all the social media news platforms operating under their jurisdiction. A report published in Indian Express on July 12, 2020, states that  ‘All the social media news platforms based on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, YouTube, Instagram, Public App and LinkedIn  have  come under the ban ordered by the DCs of Sonipat, Kaithal, Charkhi Dadri, Karnal, Narnaul and Bhiwani on the pretext being stated that “dissemination of unverified and misleading news from such platforms may disturb the tranquillity in the society and may adversely affect the mental health of common man” during the coronavirus pandemic.’ Latestly the ban was imposed by Karnal Deputy Commissioner Mr Nishant Kumar Yadav exercising the powers of District Magistrate and Chairperson of District Disaster Management Authority on July 10  for 15 days, which states-“Some persons in Karnal District, without getting registered with DIPR Haryana or Information & Broadcasting Ministry, Government of India, are disseminating news on various social media platforms e.g. YouTube,  WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, Public App, LinkedIn and others without verifying the facts and purely based on misleading and incorrect facts, due to which there is the possibility of arising a misleading or confusing situation during the COVID pandemic. If this is not controlled, it may have a bad effect on the mental health of the populace.” Order further adds, “As about the number of such social media platforms operating…